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D. Schotman "D.E.B. Schotman" (Dublin, Ireland)
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China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival
China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival
by Rana Mitter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival, 23 Jun. 2014
Although one of the first books that is focussing on the entire war between China and Japan, rather than focussing on one particular subject, the book fails to do justice to cover the entire war. To describe a war that lasted for 8 years and cover it in 480 pages, should indeed suffice for the fact this is simply impossible. To draw a comparative, a recent book on WO2 as Anthony Beevor’s The Second World War runs around 880 pages.

With that the story never digs really deep and only draws the lines that mainly evolve on the surface. Apart from that, the book is extremely fragmented. Especially towards the end, the author takes more and more leaps in time without actually weaving them into a coherent narrative. In this I think the most troublesome of all is that the human suffering is by far not treated with the respect and the attention it deserves. There is for example not a word about the infamous Area 731 and where the author is speaking about atrocities as for example, the Rape of Nanjing, one visit to the museum in Nanjing that is dedicated to the Nanjing massacre should be enough to realize that he does no more than scratch the surface. Many has in fact to do There was very little about the feeling of superiority that the Japanese had in regards to the Chinese and how this evolved in this explosion of violence and relentless onslaught.

The war between Japan and China was a war that reached depths that would even the most hardened soldier revolt and churn his stomach, but out of this book you would not really get this impression. The hatred, which is still so physically present in the hearts of Chinese people, has directly to do with all of this and not for nothing. Only a deeper understanding of what really went on in these years, I believe will give us a better understanding of China’s relation to Japan and the rest of the world.
What the book does quite we’ll, is to explain why the Nationalists actually did fail to unite China and how out of this weakened position Mao eventually came out on top. Also I thought the book was quite strong in terms of how the role of the US, the UK and Russia were of some influence of ending this war. It indeed gives the feeling (and quite right, I would say) that the Americans indeed sacrificed the lives of millions of Chinese people in order for them to achieve a swift victory in their battle of Japan.


The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation
The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation
by Richard J. Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.24

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive in scope, deep in detail and clear about many chaotic events, 7 May 2013
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Richard Evans - The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation

In this second volume of the trilogy (counting 2560 pages together) Evans continued the story where he left off in volume one, which is in 1933, directly with the elimination of the SA and the murder of Rohm and works his way up from there to end right before the invasion of Poland in 1939. Where the previous volume clearly illustrated the problems of the Weimar Republic, the constant threat of communists succeeding in taking power (the legacy of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the fear that Germany will face the same fate), in this volume the Weimar Republic came to an end (accidentally killed off by their own chancellor Von Papen, making the grave mistake to use Hitler for conservative purposes, living in the illusion that Hitler could be kept in check) and the Nazi firmly established in power. The era of the Third Reich that was expected to last a thousand years begun.

This volume, I believe works out three important narratives. The first one, is the departure from only persecuting communists and political dissidents to a wide range of unwanted groups, which are all dealt with in their own way. Particularly towards the end of the first volume, Evans clearly seem to try to emphasize the importance of understanding the fact that the Nazi's were at first only persecuting Communists as they were the most important political competitors. In this volume the main targeted soon become the Jews who are step by step further isolated, deprived, stripped of their possessions, jobs, status and prime position within the Wiemar Republic. All of course leading up to what eventually results in the final solution. The second narrative is worked out the most detailed and is about how the Nazi's not only managed to bring the entire society under control, but also how they successfully brainwashed the entire society and drenched everything with Nazi ideology. The details of this are truly shocking and once again brings up the question, how could a society that was so cultivated and we'll developed (read Peter Watson's The German Genius for some more background) could let this happen. It is really strange that so few people really stood up for it or that people didn't see how they were used in what was in fact the buildup of a war economy, which is the third narrative worked out in this book. Evans shown how people were fooled by promises as a car, jobs, while they were working in war production, and not even one car ever came off the assembly line and was the infrastructure only improved so that the army could avoid possibly logistic problems. The book ends with the Anschluss of Austria and the first expansions and the reclaiming of land that was lost in WW1 at the North-Southern borders of Germany.

I think it is only fair to laud Evans' achievement. The book is truly remarkable in scope, depth and coverage. The book is written in such lucid and fluid language and reads away very easy, which is remarkable considering the fact that it is a really complex and big topic. I believe that all the three volumes will function as the best possible introduction, currently available on the market in any language and are a really good springboard to further exploration of WW2, further detailed narratives of certain battles, the work of Kershaw, Hastings, Beevor, etc. which is exactly what I am going to do after I complete volume three. I have not completed Volume three but already now I think this rank high as the best and clearest set of books I ever read about WW2.


Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War Two
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War Two
by Douglas A. Blackmon
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely shatters what was taught to us at school, 30 April 2013
This book, that is written in such light and lucid language deals with a topic that is everything but lightly. I founded it absolutely shocking to read. The lack of respect towards fellow human beings, the deplorable moral and the complete lack of any empathy on display here is truly shocking. As we all have learned in school, with the acceptance of the 13 Amendment Slavery ended in the Unites States. And movies as Lincoln seem to drive this message home, once more. Of course, this was everything but what really happened. James M. McPherson is already touching on this in Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, but does not more than mentioning it. Blackmon however wrote a book about it.

After the civil war ended, Slavery was indeed abolished, but interestingly not every form of slavery. That was not done until 1952. Roughly the book deals with the period between this 1 years and describes in great deal, often from witness accounts, records and diaries what happened. The south, absolutely convinced that the cotton industry could only survive if slavery or better said free labor of African-Americans would be maintained. The solution to this was that they made being unemployed a crime. So every African-American that was walking on the street, sleeping in a deserted train wagon was basically eligible to be arrested. Upon arrest they were put in shackles and convicted during a fake trial, upon which the state had the right to sell the person to a private owner, who then deployed them for various forms of hard labor. Usually in the most atrocious circumstances as for example in a charcoal mine. With basically nowhere to go, no way to get out, there was only one way and that was to work of the sentence, usually with near or fatal consequences.

What was surprising me the most was that everybody was in it, and that police, sheriffs, judges, land owners, industrial owners and the president (I knew that someone as Woodrow Wilson was a notorious racist, but I didn't expect it from Theodore Roosevelt as we'll) all were doing their share in maintaining this form of slavery creating an absolutely hopeless situation for the African American population. I hope that this book will serve to bring these criminals to justice and restore the narrative of what really went on. It is interesting to keep in mind that at the same time the United States President was preaching for the League of Nations and did they liberate countless people from a similar fate. This high act of humanism was unfortunately not further deployed in their own country.


Peacemakers Six Months That Changed the World: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War
Peacemakers Six Months That Changed the World: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War
by Margaret MacMillan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars No step forward in the long run, a huge step back., 22 April 2013
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Margaret McMillan - Peacemakers Six Months That Changed the World: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War.

On the contrary to Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna of Adam Zamoyski, which is a very impressive achievement and a long needed to be written book, this book does merely focus on the actual peace negotiations. I wanted to read this book as so often scholars or people in general will tell you that everything actually went completely wrong with the Paris Peace Conference and that if they had done a better job, WW2 could have been avoided. The decision, for example, to let Germany pay that staggering amount of gold was decided here. Pretty much under pressure of the French it seems as Germany had done the same at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1872. One could argue that this perception is based on the same as was defended by John Maynard Keynes in the Economical Consequences of Peace and which made Keynes famous overnight. McMillan, however focuses much more on the completely lack of decision making. Reading this book, it could be easy defended that WW2 eventually should be attributed to sheer incompetence, stubbornness and disinterest. Just as in the Paris Peace Conference, the actual decisions were made by only a small group of countries. The United States, Great Britain and France, and from which especially the last two were only on a path to seek vengeance. Wilson, who was there for the United States, comes across like an obsessive maniac, with no interest or understanding for Europe and only wants to enforce his idea to set up a League of Nations.

McMillan, deals with the countries in separate chapters, and I believe that this works very good from a analytic point of view. Else it would have been completely impossible to follow what actually was decided and who was facing the consequences. The downside is that it does not really tell you what was going on at the same time, as it were actually several conferences, rather than only one. I think if you are a bit into WW1 or WW2, you know what the consequences were for Western Europe, Germany lost substantial ground, Poland was re-created and increased with 1/3 etc. So for me the chapters on China and the Middle East were the most interesting. China because it explains so we'll, how the Japanese gained control over German possessions in China, as Qingdao for example, from which they eventually would lead an invasion deeper into China and as a result China walked away from the negotiation table. The Middle East because so much trouble, separation of former Ottoman land into different states, and how the English & French tried to continue maintaining their influence, how Price Faisal was as good as completely ignored and some more about the very enigmatic and intriguing T.E. Lawrence that is better known as Lawrence Of Arabia. Much of these are also described by James Barr in A Line in the Sand. No matter how you turn it, McMillan does leave no stone on-turned so that eventually becomes quite clear why she choose use the under title `The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War' as it indeed wasn't ending anything, but only make things worse. Perhaps this conference was in fact the moment that determined much of the rest of the 20th Century, and perhaps even up till this day.


The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany
The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany
by Richard J. Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.24

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive history of the Third Reich. Extremely informative and we'll written., 17 April 2013
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The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany

As stated before, I'm not a WW2 expert and I haven't read so much on this subject as I did on other periods and subjects of history. WW2 merely interests me from a philosophical point of view as it does show what happens if every intellectual input is lost and all that is left is nihilism. Nihilism that was built on the rubble of Nietzsche's infamous practicing of philosophy with a sledgehammer. Reading this book more than ever I feel that he has something to explain to humanity. And this book, the first of a trilogy (all in all about 2600 pages) explains perfectly we'll how the Nazi's indeed robbed Germany of everything intellectual. The narrative worked out in this book becomes even more stellar if you read The German Genius of Peter Watson before it. More than ever, one realized how it ever could have happened as under the Nazi's Germany was but a mere reflection of the country Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Herder, and Fichte once lived in. Years ago (in 2002) to be exact, I was reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich of William Shirer. I think Evans tried to write a thorough update of this book, as it was pretty outdated by now. I mean, I do not really think anymore that the whole Nazi top was gay, etc. To make things short, this story needed an update and Evans does more than deliver. I think it is up to date, the best book I read on WW2 (and I'm currently halfway part 2, which is equally impressive). Evans begins his story in Prussia, and I thought that this worked really we'll. As part 1 is going until 1933, this is in fact book about the Weimar Republic, and Evans shows us exactly, what loopholes, dark corners the laws had and how they were used by the Nazi's. The notorious art. 48 is one of them. Also does Evans make a strong case for the fact that the Nazi's primary target were the Communists and not (as is commonly believed) the Jews. The legend of 1917 looms greatly over the Nazi's, and all prosecution (the building of Dachau only a few days after v/d Lubbe had set the Reichstag on fire) seem to aim at targeting communists. Along the way some interesting stories about the actual fire and if v/d Lubbe actually did it or not. The other thing Evans shows convincingly is that the Nazi's (as once again also is not commonly believed) came to power through a legal way, and not by committing a coupe. The book ends with a stellar first episode on what is yet to come and which carries the title `Hitler's Cultural Revolution'. In this chapter Evans goes through great lengths to explain the reforms, the indoctrinations that were set in motion and Hitler's own ideological and intellectual background. At the end of the book, I could only but longing for continuation of this story and this started with part 2 right away. This book is an amazing book to read, extremely informative and a perfect starting point for further reading as Kershaw's biography on Hitler, his most recent book, The End, the work of Beevor (as Stalingrad or Berlin) or Hastings (as Armageddon), which all look to more detailed specific subjects. But then, what else can you expect from the person who succeeded Quentin Skinner at Cambridge as Regius Professor of Modern History. If Kershaw wrote the definitive biography of Hitler then Evans wrote the Definitive history of the Third Reich.


Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century
Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century
by Mark Mazower
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Serves as a good introduction in European 20th Century history, 16 April 2013
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Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century

This book should be interesting to put opposite of The Better Angels of Our Nature of Steven Pinker. Where the first addressed the crimes, wars and brutality of the 20th Century, is the later that tries to show that the 20th Century was actually not so bad, and that it was in this age that violence had actually decreased. Mazower is going a great deal to guide us through all the acts of of what he calls `Dark Contingent'. I thought however that for the scope of the topic, 400 pages of text is way too short. Obviously too, Mazower elaborates or repeats research from his other book Hitler's Empire, as this era that deserves much of the attention. Understandable, but there have been much more acts of remembrance in the 20th Century. I thought it was a book that serves mainly to put things into a wider perspective, while it you want to read about certain details you better off reading other books about the 20th Century. As the cover states `a nice introduction for undergrads.' What it does though is demonstrating that the 20th Century consisted out of more than only WW1 and WW2. I liked the later parts of the re-building of Europe and the collapse of Communism, but I'm afraid that for some more in depth answers and thoughts we have to look elsewhere.


Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 (Peoples Trilogy 1)
Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62 (Peoples Trilogy 1)
by Frank Dikötter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better and deeper, 16 April 2013
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Mao's Great Famine

As for most Europeans, this was a complete black page in our history education. For some reason Hitler was to be punished and do we only recently become aware of the atrocious crimes committed by Stalin. Mao, until now also got away with it. In China worshiped as a god, a hero, the great helmsman, the savior, and whatever was attributed to him. One of the first who successfully hit a nail in the coffin was Yung Chang in her book Wild Swans (by many referred to as a direct look into hell) and even more in her biography on Mao, that was even before it was published already forbidden in China. It was there that I read for the first time about Mao's crimes and the Great Leap Forward. Now, although the amount time she spends about the Great Leap had a much more piercing and penetrating effect on me. Her dealing with the subject was much more brutal and revealing and it is up to date the only book that I put away several times because I could not take it any longer. I thought Dikkoter's book was sometimes written to objective and too much from a distance. He does however present much more details, gives a more solid background on why and what actually happened. The first part of the book deals with the Great Famine in a chronological way, how one decision was leading to another, and how disaster was stapled upon disaster. To be clear it still is an unbelievable story, hard to take in, to understand and in times hard to read. The second part of the book is a more thematic treatment and discusses the effects on its people, although perhaps he was too much glazing over sometimes, as for example in the chapter `Cannibalism' which could have been worked out in much more detail and if you read Snyder's Bloodlands, for example, you know that this is a subject that deserves much more attention. Particularly horrifying was a chapter called `Violence' in which Dikotter actually explains in great detail what happens when you starve to death and how a human slowly declines. The physical description of this chapter was tough and hard to get through. All in all a worthy read, but should be read in relation with other works, as Yung Chang's biography of Mao, Fenby's History of Modern China and the recently published Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine of Yang Yisheng.


Young Stalin
Young Stalin
by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars The life of the Young Stalin and the Wild West that we call Russia, 5 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Young Stalin (Paperback)
Today, while I read the last pages of this book, a colleague told me `I cannot understand why this guy can intrigue you so much. He was a genocidal mass murderer' About this last he is absolutely right, although in this book he wasn't yet, as this book is only about before he came to power. What we can confirm after reading this book is that he had a spectacular life, and Lenin and Trotsky too, who like him lived in and equal spectacular age that sounds more as the wild west, than Russia in the last days of the Tzars' empire. But I think none of them was like Stalin. Bank robber, Theology students, writer, arsonist, pirate, gangster, prisoner and kidnapper are but a few things Stalin did in his life in which he never diverted the from his cause and that was the revolution that eventually happened in 1917 and which was mainly financed by bank robberies and the kidnapping of children of rich oil barons in Baku. He was however also a highly intellectual, talented and incredible we'll read (he owned over 40.000 books) person who according to his friend always talked about books, and actively pushed friends to read stuff as Darwin or Marx himself. What we see in this book is mainly a character study of how he became the man that we all know from our history books and how the seeds developed that eventually turned into the murderous maniac. The problem is, after reading this book Stalin is already by far not anymore that person. But a human being, with emotions, feelings and dreams, that comes very close to who we actually are ourself.


The Penguin History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century
The Penguin History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century
by Robert Service
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.89

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The violent history of Russia in the 20th Century., 1 Mar. 2013
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This book narrates the history of Russia, from the beginning of the 20th Century till the end of that century. It gives a great overview of Russia's, incredible, tumultuous yet in terms unimaginable violent century. This starts off right at the beginning, with first the First World War and from the Russian Revolution, which is arguably and by many regarded as the most important event of the 20th Century. From Stalin's succession of Lenin and all the problems along with that, his Terror, WW2, on to the time of Putin. It is a most cruel, inhumane and violent story, although that is not always clearly emphasized in this book and I think it should have. From that perspective, the book clearly was written a while ago and does suffer from not incorporating any new research as Figes' work on private life in the age of Stalin, the book on Stalin's youth or ongoing Polish research in to what extend the fall of the Soviet Union was in fact staged or not. The author does offer the possibility that Gorbachev, might not have acted out of humane convictions, but in order to protect Russia as a country and through the lines Service is not always as positive about Gorbachev as I remember, the media spoke of him, or even in Oliver Stone's recent book/documentary. I also always thought that Yeltsin was protecting Gorbachev (or that is what I remember from the newsflashes in the 90's) but it here it more looks like he actually substantially contributed to his downfall. As such I would have liked to read a bit more about the fall of the Soviet Union, not to mention Russia's invasion in Afghanistan or, Russia's role in WW2, which is clearly undercut here or Trotsky. But then, it is an introduction, and as such it cannot go too deep. I serve as an excellent introduction to read more about specific personalities or events and it was exactly for that reason that I read it.


Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Could have been an excellent last volume of the New Cambridge Modern History, 28 Feb. 2013
This book could make an excellent last volume of the New Cambridge Modern History, which traditionally ended after 1945. This book of Tony Judt, begins there and ends around the year 2000 and is an incredible read, which can only leave you amazed in so many ways. The biggest question and topic of amazement is of course, how Europe overcame the catastrophic effects of WW2, as the demand of a unconditional surrender, left Europe basically in ruins. It was destroyed, looted, eradicated. There was starvation, poverty, anger and many lost family member and beloved ones. But Europe moved on and rebuilt itself, becoming stronger and more united than ever. This alone should already be regarded as one of the most stunning miracles of the 20th Century. Judt, spends a great deal (about 1/4th of the book) to this, and gives as such a great overview and understanding of what needed to be done and how it was done. Central to this is of course the creation of the welfare state, and intellectual flirting with communism and socialism, mainly in France, which was also already subject of earlier research and books of Judt. The book makes a strong point for the fact that especially in western Europe practically all governments took the course of keeping the lower classes of society satisfied, as it was believed this caused WW2 and explains then too why everybody massively turned to Keynes, Socialism or even Marxism. From there, when it becomes clear that Marxism, doesn't work, slowly we move into the Neo-Liberal era, Thatcherism, and what basically started the still ongoing breakdown of that same welfare state. In between, Judt talks about the Marshall plan, the Cold War, the Suez crisis, the Prague Spring, the occupation of Eastern Europe by the Soviets, the creation of the NATO and the EU, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Balkan conflict, and many other we'll known subjects and personalities. But what makes the book so good is that this all is narrated together in one complete story, which is forming a great departure point or platform for further reading on contemporary European history. It is long (the text itself already 840 pages) but I wish I had this book for my courses in modern European history. This is a book that you want to re-read from time to time.


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